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Authors: Mercedes Lackey

The Oathbound

BOOK: The Oathbound
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Table of Contents
 
 
“TALE‘SEDRIN IS A DEAD CLAN....”

I
still live! And while I live, Tale‘sedrin lives!”
“A Clan is more than a single individual. It is a living, growing thing,” the Elder replied. “You are Sword-sworn, Tarma; you are barren seed by vow and by the Warrior’s touch. How can Tale‘sedrin be alive in you, when you can not give it life? The Children of the Hawk are no more—you are vowed to the Shin’a‘in, not to any single Clan. Let the banner be buried with the rest of the dead.”
“No! Sooner than that I would die with them! Tale‘sedrin
lives!”
“It lives in
me
—” Kethry stepped between Tarma and the Council. “I am
she‘enedra,
oathbound to the Sworn One. I have taken no vows of celibacy. Through
me
Tale’sedrin is a living, growing thing!”
“How do we know the bond is a true one? Tarma, she is a sorceress. She could have tricked even you.”
“Kethry has saved my life. How dare you doubt my word. She is my true
she‘enedra
by a Goddess-blessed vow—and you will retract your damned lie or die on my blade!”
NOVELS BY MERCEDES LACKEY available from DAW Books:
THE HERALDS OF VALDEMAR
ARROWS OF THE QUEEN
ARROW’S FLIGHT
ARROW’S FALL
 
 
THE LAST HERALD-MAGE
MAGIC’S PAWN
MAGIC’S PROMISE
MAGIC’S PRICE
 
THE MAGE WINDS
WINDS OF FATE
WINDS OF CHANGE
WINDS OF FURY
 
 
THE MAGE STORMS
STORM WARNING
STORM RISING
STORM BREAKING
 
 
VOWS AND HONOR
THE OATHBOUND
OATHBREAKERS
OATHBLOOD
 
 
THE COLLEGIUM CHRONICLES
FOUNDATION*
 
BY THE SWORD
BRIGHTLY BURNING
TAKE A THIEF
EXILE’S HONOR
EXILE’S VALOR
 
VALDEMAR ANTHOLOGIES:
SWORD OF ICE
SUN IN GLORY
CROSSROADS
MOVING TARGETS
*
 
Written with
LARRY DIXON:
 
THE MAGE WARS
THE BLACK GRYPHON
THE WHITE GRYPHON
THE SILVER GRYPHON
 
DARIAN’S TALE
OWLFLIGHT
OWLSIGHT
OWLKNIGHT
 
 
OTHER NOVELS
 
THE BLACK SWAN
 
 
THE DRAGON JOUSTERS
JOUST
ALTA
SANCTUARY
AERIE
 
 
THE ELEMENTAL MASTERS
THE SERPENT’S SHADOW
THE GATES OF SLEEP
PHOENIX AND ASHES
THE WIZARD OF LONDON
RESERVED FOR THE CAT
 
 
 
And don’t miss:
THE VALDEMAR COMPANION
Edited by John Helfers and Denise Little
 
*Coming soon from DAW Books
Copyright © 1998 by Mercedes R. Lackey.
 
All Rights Reserved.
 
 
DAW Book Collectors No. 1082.
 
 
All characters and events in this book are fictious.
Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
 
 
 
 
All individual material copyright © by Mercedes Lackey
Introduction ©1998
Sword-sworn © 1985
Turnabout © 1986
The Making of a Legend © 1990
Keys © 1988
A Woman’s Weapon © 1992
The Talisman © 1990
A Tale of Heroes © 1987
Friendly Fire © 1993
Wings of Fire © 1991
Spring Plowing at Forst Reach © 1998
Oathblood © 1998
eISBN : 978-1-101-12733-9
 
 
 
First Printing, July 1988
DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED
U.S. PAT. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES
-MARCA REGISTRADA
HECHO EN U.S.A.
 
 
S.A.

http://us.penguingroup.com

Dedicated to
Lisa Waters
for wanting to see it
and my parents
for agreeing with her
Introduction
T
his is the tale of an unlikely partnership, that of the Shin‘a’in swordswoman and celibate Kal‘enedral, Tarma shena Tale’sedrin and the nobly-born sorceress Kethry, member of the White Winds school, whose devotees were sworn to wander the world using their talents for the greatest good. How these two met is told in the tale “Sword Sworn,” published in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s anthology SWORD AND SORCERESS III. A second of the accounts of their wandering life will be seen in the fourth volume of that series. But
this
story begins where that first tale left off, when they have recovered from their ordeal and are making their way back to the Dhorisha Plains and Tarma’s home.
One
T
he sky was overcast, a solid gray sheet that seemed to hang just barely above the treetops, with no sign of a break in the clouds anywhere. The sun was no more than a dimly glowing spot near the western horizon, framed by a lattice of bare black branches. Snow lay at least half a foot thick everywhere in the forest, muffling sound. A bird flying high on the winter wind took dim notice that the forest below him extended nearly as far as he could see no matter which way he looked, but was neatly bisected by the Trade Road immediately below him. Had he flown a little higher (for the clouds were not as low as they looked), he might have seen the rooftops and smokes of a city at the southern end of the road, hard against the forest. Although the Trade Road had seen enough travelers of late that the snow covering it was packed hard, there were only two on it now. They had stopped in the clearing halfway through the forest that normally saw heavy use as an overnighting point. One was setting up camp under the shelter of a half-cave of rock and tree trunks piled together—partially the work of man, partially of nature. The other was a short distance away, in a growth-free pocket just off the main area, picketing their beasts.
The bird circled for a moment, swooping lower, eyeing the pair with dim speculation. Humans sometimes meant food—
But there was no food in sight, at least not that the bird recognized as such. And as he came lower still, the one with the beasts looked up at him suddenly, and reached for something slung at her saddlebow.
The bird had been the target of arrows often enough to recognize a bow when he saw one. With a squawk of dismay, he veered off, flapping his wings with all his might, and tracing a twisty, convoluted course out of range. He wanted to be the eater, not the eaten!
 
Tarma sighed as the bird sped out of range, unstrung her bow, and stowed it back in the saddle-quiver. She hunched her shoulder a little beneath her heavy wool coat to keep her sword from shifting on her back, and went back to her task of scraping the snow away from the grass buried beneath it with gloved hands. Somewhere off in the far distance she could hear a pair of ravens calling to each other, but otherwise the only sounds were the sough of wind in branches and the blowing of her horse and Kethry’s mule. The Shin‘a’in place of eternal punishment was purported to be cold; now she had an idea
why.
She tried to ignore the ice-edged wind that seemed to cut right through the worn places in her nondescript brown clothing. This was no place for a Shin‘a’in of the Plains, this frozen northern forest. She had no business being here. Her garments, more than adequate to the milder winters in the south, were just not up to the rigors of the cold season here.
Her eyes stung, and not from the icy wind. Home—Warrior Dark, she wanted to be home! Home, away from these alien forests with their unfriendly weather, away from outClansmen with no understanding and no manners ... home....
Her little mare whickered at her, and strained against her lead rope, her breath steaming and her muzzle edged with frost.
She
was no fonder of this chilled wilderness than Tarma was. Even the Shin‘a’in winter pastures never got this cold, and what little snow fell on them was soon melted. The mare’s sense of what was “right” was deeply offended by all this frigid white stuff.
“Kathal, dester‘edra,”
Tarma said to the ears that pricked forward at the first sound of her harsh voice. “Gently, windborn-sister. I’m nearly finished here.”
Kessira snorted back at her, and Tarma’s usually solemn expression lightened with an affectionate smile.
“Li‘ha’eer,
it is ice-demons that dwell in this place, and nothing else.”
When she figured that she had enough of the grass cleared off to at least help to satisfy her mare’s hunger, she heaped the rest of her foragings into the center of the area, topping the heap with a carefully measured portion of mixed grains and a little salt. What she’d managed to find was poor enough, and not at all what her training would have preferred—some dead seed grasses with the heads still on them, the tender tips from the branches of those trees and bushes she recognized as being nourishing, even some dormant cress and cattail roots from the stream. It was scarcely enough to keep the mare from starving, and not anywhere near enough to provide her with the energy she needed to carry Tarma on at the pace she and her partner Kethry had been making up until now.
She loosed little Kessira from her tethering and picketed her in the middle of the space she’d cleared. It showed the measure of the mare’s hunger that she tore eagerly into the fodder, poor as it was. There had been a time when Kessira would have turned up her nose in disdain at being offered such inferior provender.
“Ai, we’ve come on strange times, haven’t we, you and I,” Tarma sighed. She tucked a stray lock of crow-wing-black hair back under her hood, and put her right arm over Kessira’s shoulder, resting against the warm bulk of her. “Me with no Clan but one weirdling outlander, you so far from the Plains and your sibs.”
Not that long ago they’d been just as any other youngling of the nomadic Shin‘a’in and her saddle mare; Tarma learning the mastery of sword, song, and steed, Kessira running free except when the lessoning involved her. Both of them had been safe and contented in the heart of Clan Tale‘sedrin—true, free Children of the Hawk.
Tarma rubbed her cheek against Kessira’s furry shoulder, breathing in the familiar smell of clean horse that was so much a part of what had been home. Oh, but they’d been happy; Tarma had been the pet of the Clan, with her flute-clear voice and her perfect memory for song and tale, and Kessira had been so well-matched for her rider that she almost seemed the “four-footed sister” that Tarma frequently named her. Their lives had been so close to perfect—in all ways. The king-stallion of the herd had begun courting Kessira that spring, and Tarma had had Dharin; nothing could have spoiled what seemed to be their secure future.
BOOK: The Oathbound
8.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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